A city has many lives and layers. London has more than most. But not all the layers are underground, and not all the lives belong to the living. Twelve-year-old George Chapman is about to find this out the hard way.
When, on an otherwise normal day, George breaks the head from a stone dragon outside the Natural History Museum in a tiny act of rebellion, he inadvertently awakens an ancient power. The results are instant and terrifying: a stone pterodactyl unpeels from the wall and starts chasing George. He runs for his life, but the strangest part is, no one around him can see what he's running from. No one except Edie, who is also trapped in this same world.
Now that George has disturbed the fragile truce between the warring statues of London, he is forced into a race for survival, where nothing is what it seems, and it's never clear who to trust.
And this is just the beginning...
Printed copy, 450 pages
Published: 2006 by Hyperion Paperbacks for Children
This is an... interesting story.
The spits are statues with a sentient "soul", where their maker has put a purpose in them. They are at war with taints, who are statues with a "lack" of soul or purpose. Normal people's brains cannot comprehend and therefore reject the sight of this warring, impossible life.
Obviously, this is why I picked up the book. Statues coming to life + war = awesome premise. Even I can understand that basic math.
Nevertheless, I was a little disappointed with this. The main character, George, was a bit... what's the word... tasteless. Selfish. Weak? I didn't really have much patience for him, or at least not until he pulled through in the last 50 pages or so.
Edie, his new friend, was also disappointing. She was supposedly a tough girl with a mysterious past, but the only two roles she seemed to play were George's supporter and the victim. I can recall at least two instances where she was captured and had to be rescued. In fact, she and George were rescued numerous times: bailed out of danger by spits.
The best character, by far, was the Gunner. He is a spit, of a WW1 soldier, who saves the children's lives on more than one occasion. He was decisive and always did what he could, even though there was no reason to. He probably should have left snivelling little George to fight things out, but the Gunner seemed a kind protector, the type of person to give to the unfortunate from the bottom of his (metal) heart.
The Gunner and the premise were pretty much the best things about this book. Oh, and the impressive amount of British jargon - I was narrating this book in my head with a British accent. What a lovely change from the normal my-voice narrative.
What I didn't like, as I mentioned, were the main characters. They spent a disproportionate amount of time running. There were few food breaks - I thought that that much running constituted more than a chocolate bar, a sandwich, and some chips; but what do I know of running? - while there was plenty of confusing, mysterious statues conveniently handing out the information.
Actually, Edie had a horribly fascinating talent that could be added to my list-of-good-things-about-this-book: she was a "glint", a person who could see into the distant past by touching an ancient item. It was usually a painful, nauseous ordeal, but still: pretty epic talent.
So, to clarify this confusing post...
Things I like:
-the premise (warring statues of London).
-Edie's Glint talent.
-the villain was pretty cool. The Walker: a man cursed to walk forever, who's desperately seeking a way to end it, even if it means a certain boy is cursed instead. *hint, hint*
Things I don't like:
-the main characters, George and Edie.
-the handing out of information.
-too much running, not enough food or action.
-This isn't fair, but I don't like cities. Especially popular ones, like London and NYC. They are, in my opinion, way too often the settings for books.
I give this book a three. It's pretty balanced. I might recommend this book to a person wishing for an in-between book (a not-completely-serious book, one to pass the time. Maybe just before a book you've been dying to read arrives on shelves).
*By the way, Happy Suicide Awareness Day! Not happy about people wanting to die, but happy that you have the power to help. To show you care. Tell someone suffering they're beautiful! Take them out for ice cream or to do something they love. Or if you're stuck inside, make them something cute, and compliment them. Show them some love. Even a little makes a big difference.*